Names and Faces
I have just finished typing lists of the 400 students I will meet, beginning tomorrow. Yes, I know there are more efficient ways to copy the lists the administration gives me and re-format them for the records I like to keep.
But I like keying each of their names into my Excel format because it forces me to slow down. For the children I know, typing their name conjures up an image of their face, their personality, their fears and joys, the experiences we’ve shared together. And it raises questions: Is this the year that Essie will finally speak up? Is this the year that Cody learns to listen? Will Mark and Maria, best friends last year, migrate toward other friends, perhaps splitting into the boy/girl dichotomy that seems to happen about 3rd grade? For the children I haven’t met yet, I love savoring their names on my tongue, wondering what they’ll look like, sound like, even whether they’re a boy or girl, because you can’t always tell by the name! I wonder what friends they’ll make and how they’ll like our school.
And because the subject I teach is not anything like math, but a lot like mystery, I wonder where we will travel together, what we’ll learn from one another and from the divine Mystery as we sit with a story, and with each other, in the months to come.
Sometimes, a name creates not those warm, fuzzy feelings but a sense of not dread exactly, but a kind of resistance. Do I really have to have that child in my class again? That’s when I REALLY need to listen to my gut, to bring that child fully into focus, to remember his or her sense of humor, provocative questions, or startling kindness to a classmate, and not just the “problem” behavior that is more about me than about them.
At our opening faculty meeting, we watched a TED talk by Rita Pierson, a wonderful teacher of more than 40 years who has recently left this world. A few days later, I heard her on TED radio, and the line I most needed to hear was burned into my brain again:
“Children [and adults] do not learn from teachers they don’t like. . . . You don’t have to like all your students, but they can never, never know it.”
Lord, help me to LOVE all my students, whether I “like” them or not (and most days, most times, I do!). Help me to be a vessel for your LOVE for us all, that we may pursue goodness as well as knowledge and becomes your heart and hands in the world. In your holy Name, we pray.